Spencers: Theatre of illusion coming to Carolina Theatre

Oct. 30, 2013 @ 10:24 AM

Kevin Spencer wants to take magic out of the house party and Las Vegas confines and make it into a medium that can move audiences like great visual art and great music. He also wants Spencers: Theatre of Illusion to appeal to children and adults.
“We call this show Theatre of Illusion because it’s a combination of my love for theater and my love for illusion,” Spencer said in a phone interview from his home in Bedford, Va. One challenge in producing shows is to offer illusions that appeal to adults and children, and Spencer said he prides the troupe on its ability to appeal to families.
Spencers: Theatre of Illusion is made up of Spencer and his wife and co-founder Cindy, along with other members of the creative team. They will perform Saturday at the Carolina Theatre of Durham.
New to the show is an updated version of an illusion Harry Houdini performed in 1914 where he appeared to walk through a wall. Designer Jim Steinmeyer asked Kevin Spencer if he wanted to try the trick in the show. He agreed, and Steinmeyer “began working on a very contemporary version of that trick,” Spencer said. The wall for this illusion has stacked cinder blocks, and the Spencers will invite an audience member on stage to help with the illusion.
He consults frequently with Steinmeyer to create new illusions and material. Steinmeyer has an extensive list of illusions he has created for Broadway (including “Mary Poppins” and “Beauty and the Beast”), for Alice Cooper’s stage show, and other media.
Spencer performed magic tricks as a child, but later turned his talents to the piano, studying to be a concert pianist. He returned to the art of illusion when he saw Doug Henning perform, and got to meet Henning and get some advice from him.
Cindy Spencer met Kevin through his roommate (who happened to be her boyfriend). She began assisting with Kevin’s magic show, became full time, and the two married and formed the Theatre of Illusion.
“She’s very much a creative force in what we do,” Kevin Spencer said. “She’s very creative when it comes to the presentation part of the show.” She works with Steinmeyer to sketch out how the backdrops of the illusion will look. “She’s very good at looking at an illusion and figuring out the journey we want to take the audience on for that particular trick,” he said.
In addition to stage shows, the Spencers have created two programs, Healing of Magic, and Hocus Focus. Healing of Magic uses magic to help patients with varying ailments recover. When a patient works on a magic trick, they also are working on motor skills, reasoning, and perception, Kevin Spencer said. Hocus Focus is a curriculum that allows teachers to use magic when working with special needs students, including those who are gifted, Spencer said.
Recently, he worked with advanced placement math and science students at a school in Pittsburgh, using magic to teach concepts of math and physics. Magic also can be a tool to encourage creative thinking, he said. “Creativity is not something that happens often in school.” Schools want students to know the answers, but are not always good at explaining how to arrive at the answers. “We can use magic as a way to help those students become more engaged in learning,” Spencer said.

Go and Do

WHAT: Spencers: Theatre of Illusion
WHEN: Saturday, 8 p.m.
WHERE: The Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham
ADMISSION: For tickets, call 919-560-3030 or visit www.carolinatheatre.org.